Dangerous Romeos: How Parents Can Recognize if Their Daughter is About to Be Trafficked.
He was charming, debonair by all standards, and provided her that dreamy fairy tale-like romantic relationship. Maybe in the back of her mind she had questions about how an older guy would be interested in her, where he got the money for cell phones, a flashy car, and clothes, but she shrugged off these thoughts. He bought her lavish gifts, promising her the world even though he was a bit controlling at times but again she shrugged off these thoughts. One night, they both attended a local high school party where she was led upstairs and sold to trafficker. Her romantic beliefs were betrayed and shattered at the realization she had been incarcerated into sex trafficking with no means of escape.
Reading this terrible story, you may think “this can’t happen in my family” but believe it or not this is one of the most common experiences of teenagers trafficked within our communities across the United States of America. In the Seattle area alone, 300-500 teenagers (King County, 2015) will be exploited tonight with many of them just regular teenage girls from families like yours. Even the King County police state their “experience suggests that this [number of victims] is an under-count” with data from multiple trafficking awareness organizations expressing the number as far greater than recorded (King County, 2015, para. 14). These Romeos are often the link between the victim and trafficker and must be confronted to end trafficking exploitation.
What are Romeos?
Romeos are individuals selected by traffickers to lure girls into false romantic relationships all for the purpose of handing them over to a trafficker. Romeos exploit their victims through compliments and lavish gifts to win the trust of their victim. Rissman (2014) states that “eventually, the sweet talk will likely turn into manipulation, and physical and emotional abuse. The girls are often forced to sleep with clients, and will likely face serious violence if they refuse or threaten to leave their pimps” (para. 2). These ravaging Romeos are disgustingly financial compensated by other traffickers for their services in befriending teenage girls and luring them to traffickers.
They often work with Guerilla pimps and CEO pimps in this tyrannical trafficking triad as the gatekeepers to the operation. Guerilla pimps use physical violence and threats against the victim and her family to keep her in captivity while CEO pimps manage the situation entirely. (Sowers Education Group, 2015). CEO pimps use their trafficked victims like goods in a business, selling to the highest bidder (Sowers Education Group, 2015).
Where do they hang out?
Malls, bus stops, skate parks, community events, parks, high school football games, youth groups, just to name a few. The list goes on and on but wherever teenagers gather, a Romeo may be watching and waiting for an opportunity to emotionally prey upon your daughter. There have even been some accounts in which CEO pimps are recruiting Romeos still in high school and using their influence within the schools to traffick girls.
Recognizing the Signs of a Trafficking Boyfriend:
Is you daughter keeping the relationship a secret? Maybe she’s not concealing the whole relationship but does she become argumentative or defensive when you ask about the individual? Does the boyfriend avoid talking to you as the parent/guardian or wanting to get to know you at all? Often young teenagers will feel emotionally flattered to receive this kind of romantic attention from an older male and may do what she can to keep the relationship a secret.
Is she dating an older guy? Possibly through social media? Given the plethora of social media applications and websites teenagers frequent in our age, traffickers are heavily recruiting victims via this technology. Traffickers will also research the victims personal information like residential addresses, phone numbers, parent’s places of employment, sibling schools, daycares, and after school programs displayed on her profile as a means of lethal leverage against her family and friends. Often this is in threats of violence to these family members or friends if the girl refuses to comply with the pimp’s requests.
Does your daughter’s boyfriend display uncommon wealth for an individual his age? This may include flashy cars, the latest technology and gadgets, and designer clothes. Maybe the boyfriend comes from a rich family and this could account for the extremities of material possessions; but regardless of this possibility, parent’s discernment is needed to determine if this is excessive materialism of a teenage boy from a wealthy family or signs of a Romeo.
Does the boyfriend provide something she is lacking? Romeo pimps often use emotional manipulation to gain the trust of their victims. Compliments not received from critical households, basic living supplies given to a girl from a poor family, and spending time with the victim who does not receive attention from workaholic parents are just a few common examples they exploit. The Romeos sole goal is to win the trust of the teenage girl and he will use whatever flattery needed to accomplish the task.
“Exploitation starts with girls born without resources and[ AND/OR] without a support network.” (Rissman, 2014, para. 9). Either case is both equally common and transcends income spectrums. Both low, middle, and high income families are at risk.
Maybe you are a parent: single, married, or divorced, and after reading this article have identified some areas of work needed in your own relationship with your daughter. Do not dwell upon mental chastisement of yourself about past mistakes but use the time you still have left to reconnect and reconcile with your daughter. Your act of change may be the deciding factor in whether she listens to you or the false promises of a Romeo as he cares nothing more than to line his pockets with cash at the expense of sexually exploiting her.
Know who your daughter is dating. Will this be met with much resistance from her? You bet ya. But as a parent/guardian, you provide the first and most critical defense against traffickers by being involved in your daughter’s life, especially in screening who they date. Know who your daughter hangs out with and know their friends’ families. Knowledge is often the key to all of this; learning the signs of a Romeo and training your daughters into recognizing them is a titanic step in dismantling these gatekeepers of the human trafficking underworld. I highly encourage you to examine my resources and seek out additional information about how you can play a pivotal role in preventing trafficking within your neighborhood.
B., Milana. Heartbreak Picture. http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=64241&picture=heartbreak (accessed May 27, 2015)
Fisher, Mark. “Child Sex Exploiters Often Trap Their Victims by Posing as Valentines.” Oakland Sex Trafficking Examiner, February 6, 2014. Accessed May 22, 2015. http://www.examiner.com/article/child-sex-exploiters-often-trap-their-victims-by-posing-as-valentines
Government of the Netherlands. “Human Trafficking.” http://www.government.nl/issues/human-trafficking/romeo-pimps-loverboys (accessed May 24, 2015)
Hacker, Kristina. “ ‘Without Permission’ Shines Light on Local Sex Trafficking.” Ceres Courier, October 8, 2014. Accessed May 22, 2015. http://www.cerescourier.com/m/section/11/article/4453/
King County. “Help Stop Human Trafficking.” http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/injury/humantrafficking.aspx (accessed May 24, 2015)
Rissman, Jason. “Interview: Prosecuting Romeo Pimps, a Perspective on Women & Girls’ Safety from Two Former Prosecutors.” OpenIDEO, March 7, 2014. Accessed May 24, 2015. https://openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/research/interview-prosecuting-romeo-pimps-a-perspective-on-women-girls-safety-from-two-former-prosecutors
Sowers Education Group. “Pimp Tactics 101.” https://sowerseducationgroup.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/sowers-education-group-handout-pimp-tactics-and-signs-to-look-for.pdf (accessed May 24, 2015)
Shared Hope International. “Glossary of Trafficking Terms.” http://sharedhope.org/learn/traffickingterms/ (accessed May 24, 2015)
Van Dyke, Jonathan. “Psychological Warfare Propels Human Sex Trafficking World.” Gazettes, July 3, 2014. Accessed May 24, 2015. http://www.gazettes.com/news/psychological-warfare-propels-human-sex-trafficking-world/article_818524c0-02ef-11e4-8a32-001a4bcf887a.html